Croatian Book Night 2023: Can robots dream of books?
On 21 April 2023, the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) will host the opening of the 12th edition of Croatian Book Night, Croatia’s annual national programme marking World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) and Croatian Book Day (22 April), focusing on the popularisation of reading and promotion of books and prompting a wider public debate on the social status of the book and the importance of values associated with it in the contemporary society.
Always attempting to respond to current social developments, the organisers of the 2023 Croatian Book Night decided to spotlight through this year’s Night’s three-day programme issues related to the rise of artificial intelligence, which, after originating in computer science, is now rapidly becoming an all-embracing social phenomenon. Announced as the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution, it poses various challenges and philosophical and ethical questions to which the answers will obviously have a decisive impact on the fate of humankind.
Observing efforts to develop artificial intelligence by feeding it with human qualities, we feel anxious about what (or who) exactly we are going to create and ask ourselves whether in this process we are going to lose something essential, as a civilisation. Literature has been offering answers to these questions for decades, through the science fiction genre, especially dystopian fiction, whose works heralded artificial intelligence as early as 1872 (in Erewhon, by Samuel Butler), which in 1920 endowed the world with the term robot (in R.U.R., by Karel Čapek) and which first articulated possible threats to humankind by robots too similar to humans on the one hand and dissatisfied with their status in the human world on the other.
With fascinating daily examples of how artificial intelligence may be used for solutions to many problems of the contemporary world and in the development of many useful products, services and systems, the following questions arise – May AI be useful when it comes to books and reading? Are we neglecting our own intellectual resources – and that with possibly disastrous consequences – in increasingly relying on AI-based solutions? Will AI at some point be able to completely replace humans? May a machine become a skilled author? If yes, what would that mean for art, especially literature? What are the implications of the advance of AI from the psychological and linguistic perspectives? This year’s Croatian Book Night will try to provide answers to these often uneasy questions, highlighting various anniversaries associated with major Croatian writers – Marija Jurić Zagorka, Dinko Šimunović, Antun Gustav Matoš, Miljenko Smoje and Miroslav Krleža.
The organisers of the Croatian Book Night programme are the Publishers and Booksellers Association of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, National and University Library in Zagreb, Zagreb City Libraries, books-and-culture-oriented web portal Moderna vremena, Publishers’ Reprographic Rights Association – ZANA (Udruga za zaštitu prava nakladnika), Knjižni blok – Inicijativa za knjigu pro-book association and the Croatian Association of School Librarians, and it is supported by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media, Publishers’ Reprographic Rights Association – ZANA (Udruga za zaštitu prava nakladnika), City of Zagreb and Croatian Chamber of Economy.